University Commission on Southern Race Questions.

Five letters of the University Commission on Southern Race Questions online

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THE TRUSTEES OF THE JOHN F. SLATER FUND
Occasional Papers No. 24



FIVE EETTERS



OF THE



UNIVERSITY COMMISSION



ON



SOUTHERN RACE
QUESTIONS



1927



FIVE LETTERS



OF THE



UNIVERSITY COMMISSION



1'

ON



SOUTHERN RACE
QUESTIONS



1927



HG S - 1927



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of



Preface

Whether l)y original intention or not, the Occasional Papers
published by the Trustees of the John F. Slater Fund will be
found to show quite fairly the series of degrees in th.e progress
made in the education of the colored children of the South.
The first, giving an account of the establishment of the Slater
Fund in 1882, w^as published as far back as the year 1894.
Incidentally too these publications mark, between the lines,
certain steps in the process of racial relations. It seems
therefore not inappropriate to include in the list the present
series of Five Letters, which had considerable circulation at
the time of publication and were widely quoted, but have not
hitherto been brought together. They were addressed prima-
rily to college students. They are brief and simple, but were
prepared with great care and may he said to state fairly the
best sentiment on the subjects dealt with. I have ventured to
add an Introductory Address which I made at a meeting held
in Knoxville, not that it has any special value except as per-
haps glimpsing the temper of the time.

The University Commission was established at a meeting
of the old Southern Sociological Congress held in Nashville
in 1912. Its work was pioneering. It held a number of meet-
ings at various points in the South. At these meetings there
were present by invitation leading local men of both races.
The minutes of most of these meetings have been published.
Two reports of value, one by Dr. Scroggs, in 1914, on Civic
Status, and one by Dr. De Loach, in 1915, on Economics, have
been printed in the minutes. An interesting paper on the gen-
eral problem was published by Dr. Morse in the South At-
lantic Quarterly of October 1920. The expenses of the meet-
ings were met through the liberality of the Phelps-Stokes
Fund, which has done such valuable service in very many di-
rections. The Commission found that it could accomplish



4 Preface

little advance work, nor prepare an adequate study, without
the full-time employment of some one person. The members
were all completely engaged in their respective college duties.
Moreover a dozen or more books on problems of race, or of ra-
cial adjustments, were already being published or known to
be on the way of publication. • .

These books all have their value in one or another direction,
but in spite of their excellence a place yet remains for a still
more comprehensive work. It will be written by one man —
wdiere shall he l>e found? — a man capable and available, a man
of fairness and vision, and with power of style and exposition,
who can perhaps command the co-operation of the scientific
ability of men in colleges of both races.

J. H. DiLLARD

July, 1^2/.



Lynching

This letter is not written to convince you that lynching is a
crime, for you know it already. Its object is to urge you to
show others whenever opportunity presents itself that lynch-
ing does more than rob its victims of their constitutional
rights and of their lives. It simultaneously lynches law and
justice and civilization, and outrages all the finer human senti-
ments and feelings.

The wrong that it does to the wretched victims is almost as
nothing compared to the injury it does to the lynchers them-
selves, to the community, and to society at large.

Lynching is a contagious social disease, and as such is of
deep concern to every American citizen and to every lover of
civilization. It is especially of concern to you, and you can do
much to abolish it. Vice and crime know that their best,
though unconscious and unwilling allies, are luke-warmness
and timidity on the part of educated, "good" citizens. Wrong
is weaker than right, and must yield whenever right is per-
sistent and determined.

It is, of course, no argument in favor of, lynching, nor can
we derive any legitimate satisfaction from the fact that it is
not confined to any one section of our country and that the
victims are not always black. One of the bad features of
lynching is that it quickly becomes a habit, and, like all bad
habits, deepens and widens rapidly. Formerly lynchings were
mainly incited by rape and murder, but the habit has spread
until now such outrages are committed for much less serious
crimes.

The records of lynching for 1914, compiled by three dif-
ferent agencies, give the total number for the year at 52. 54,
and 74, the authority for these figures being Tuskegee Insti-
tute, the Chicago Tribune, and the Crisis, respectively.

The conflicting reports can not be harmonized, but, to avoid



6 Southern Race Questions

any possibility of exaggeration, we may employ the most con-
servative of these for analysis.

It reveals these facts : Number lynched — colored : male 46,
female 3; white: male 2, female 0. Total 52.

Crimes charged against victims: Murder 13, robber}- and
murder 6, robbery and attempted murder 1. suspected of mur-
der 1, rape 6, attempted rape 1, killing an officer 5, wounding
officer 1, murderous assault 3, alleged murderous assault 1,
biting off a man's chin 1, accused of wounding a person 1,
killing person in quarrel 4, beating child to death 1, tr\nng to
force way into woman's room 1, stealing shoes 1, stealing
mules 1, setting fire to barn 2, assisting a man to escape who
had wounded another 1, l>eing found under a house 1.

The three women were lynched for the following reasons :
One, 17 years old, for killing a man who, it was reported, had
raped her; the second was accused of beating a child to death;
the third was accused of helping her husband set fire to a barn.
In the last case, both husband and wife were lynched in the
presence of their 4-year-old child.

It should be especially noted that of the fifty-two persons
lynched, only seven — two white and five colored — or 13 per
cent, were charged with the crime against womanhood. This
shows clearly how far and how quickly the habit has spread
beyond the bounds set by those who first resorted to lynching
as a remedy.

According to states, the lynchings w-ere distributed as fol-
lows : Alabama 2, Arkansas 1, Florida 4, Georgia 2, Louisi-
ana 12, Mississippi 12, Missouri 1, New Mexico 1, North Da-
kota 1, North Carolina 1, Oklahoma 3, Oregon 1, South Caro-
lina 4, Tennessee 1, Texas 6.

The same agency which reported fifty-two lynchings for
1914 makes the following report for 1915: Number lynched
— colored: male 51, female 3; white: male 14, female 0. To-
tal 68. This is an increase of 16, or 30 per cent, over the total
numl)er for 1914.

According to states, the lynchings for 1915 were distributed



Southern Race Questions 7

as follows: Alabama 9, Arkansas 5, Florida 5, Geore^ia 18,
Illinois 1, Kentucky 5, Louisiana 2, Mississippi 9, Missouri 2,
Ohio 1, Oklahoma 3, South Carolina 1, Tennessee 2, Texas 5.

It is worthy of note that in at least four cases it was dis-
covered later that the victims of the mob were innocent of the
crime of which they were accused.

These are the terrible facts. Is there no remedy? Have
we not sufficient leg^al intellic^ence and machinery to take care
of ever}' case of crime committed? Must we fall back on the
methods of the jungle? Civilization rests on obedience to law,
which means the substitution of reason and deliberation for
impulse, instinct, and passion. It is easy and tempting to obey
the latter, but to be governed by the former requires self-con-
trol, which comes from the interposition of thought between
impulse and action. Herein lies the college man's oppor-
tunity to serve his fellows — to interpose deliberation between
their impulses and action, and in that way to control both.

Society has a right to expect college men to help in mould-
ing opinion and shaping conduct in matters of this sort. It is
their privilege and duty to cooperate with others in leading
crusades against crime and mob rule and for law and civiliza-
tion. The college man belongs in the front rank of those
fighting for moral and social progress. For this reason the
Universit}' Commission makes its first appeal to you and
urges you strongly to cooperate with the press, the pulpit, the
bar, officers of the law,* and all other agencies striving to elim-
inate this great evil, by speaking out boldly when speech is
needed and letting your influence be felt against it in decided,
unmistakable measure and manner.

(Signed) E. C. Branson, R. J. H. DeLoach, I. J. Doster,
J. M. Farr, J. D. Hoskins, W. M. Hunley, W. L. Kennon,
Josiah Morse. W. O. Scroggs, W. S. Sutton, D. Y. Thomas.

January 5, ipi6.



*An appeal for the Enforcement of Law, signed by a large num-
ber of Southern Educators, was sent to judges and other officials
throughout the South. See p. 21.



II

Education

In its first open letter to college men of the South, issued at
the beginning of the present year, the University Commission
urged them to unite their efforts with those of the press, the
pulpit, the bar, the officers of the law, and all other agencies
laboring for the elimination of the monster evil of mob vio-
lence. These agencies have labored diligently and with sub-
stantial results, as is indicated by the decrease of the average
annual number of lynchings from 171 for the decade 1886-
1895 to 70 for the decade 1906-1915. Nevertheless, the Com-
mission wishes to reiterate its appeal with renewed emphasis,
knowing that the eradication of so virulent a social disease as
the lynching mania can be effected only by the prolonged and
vigorous efforts of sane and patriotic citizens.

In this letter the Commission wishes to direct the attention
of the college men to the educational aspect of the race ques-
tion, inasmuch as the solution of all human problems ultimately
rests upon rightly directed education. In its last analysis, edu-
cation simply means bringing forth all the native capacities of
the individual for the l)enefit both of himself and of society.
It is axiomatic that a developed plant, animal, or man is far
more valuable to society than the undeveloped. It is likewise
obvious that ignorance is the most fruitful source of human
ills. Furthermore, it is as true in a social as in a physical
sense that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. The
good results thus far obtained, as shown by the Negro's
progress within recent years, prompt the Commission to urge
the extension of his educational opportunities.

The inadequate provision for the education of the Negro is
more than an injustice to him; it is an injury to the w^hite
man. The South can not realize its destiny if one-third of its
population is undeveloped and inefficient. For our common
welfare we must strive to cure disease wherever we find it,
strengthen whatever is weak, and develop all that is unde-



Southern Race Questions 9

veloped. The initial steps for increasing the efficiency and
iisefuhiess of the Negro race must necessarily be taleing is moved and held not by money
alone. Birthplace, home ties, family, friends, associations and
attachments of numerous kinds, fair treatment, opportunity
to labor and enjoy the legitimate fruits of labor, assurance of
even-handed justice in the courts, good educational facilities,
sanitary living conditions, tolerance, and sympathy — these
things, and others like them, make an even stronger appeal to
the human mind and heart than does money.

The South can not compete on a financial basis with other
sections of the country for the labor of the Negro, but the
South can easily keep her Negroes against all allurements if
she will give them a larger measure of those things that hu-
man beings hold dearer than material goods. Generosity be-
gets gratitude, and gratitude grips and holds man more power-
fully than hooks of, steel. It is axiomatic that fair dealing,
sympathy, patience, tolerance, and other human virtues bene-
fit those who exercise them even more than the beneficiaries
of them. It pays to \ye just and kind, both spiritually and ma-
terially. Surely the South has nothing to lose and much to
gain by adopting an attitude like that indicated above.

(Signed) E. C. Branson. R. P. Brooks, J. J. Doster, J. M.
Farr, J. D. Hoskins, W. M. Hunley, W. L. Kennon, Josiah
Morse, W. O. Scroggs, W. S. Sutton, D. Y. Thomas.

August J I, ^9 1 7-



IV

A New Reconstruction

The world-wide reconstruction that is following in the wake
of the war will necessarily affect the South in a peculiar way.
Nearly 300,000 Negroes have been called into the military
service of the country ; many thousands more have been drawn
from peaceful pursuits into industries born of the war ; and
several hundred thousand have shifted from the South to the
industrial districts of the North. The demobilization of the
army and the transition of industry' from a war to a peace
basis are creating many problems which can be solved only by
the efforts of both races. The Negro, in adapting himself to
the new conditions, should have the wise sympathy and gen-
erous cooperation of his white neighbors. It is to the interest
of these, as well as of, the Negro himself, that readjustment
should proceed with the least possible difficulty and delay.

We believe that this readjustment may be effectively aided
by a more general appreciation of the Negro's value as a mem-
ber of the community. Lack of sympathy and understanding
between two groups of people frequently causes one group
to regard the shortcomings of a few individuals of the other
as characteristic of all that group. This is a natural tendency,
but it is neither rational nor just, and it has proved, we be-
lieve, one of the great obstacles to the development of more
satisfactory racial relations in this country.

The Negroes' contribution to the welfare of the nation has
never been more clearly indicated than by his services during
the Great War. When the call to arms was sounded his coun-
try expected him to do his duty, and he did not fail. Large
numbers of black men on the fields of France made the su-
preme sacrifice for the cause of world democracy. In other
war services the Negroes did their full share. Many thou-
sands were employed in the building of ships, the manufacture
of munitions, the construction of cantonments, and in the pro-
duction of the coal, iron, cotton, and food stuffs without which



Southern Race Questions 13

victory would have been impossible. The Negroes' purchases
of Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps, and their contri-
butions to the Red Cross, the United War Work Fund, and
other similar agencies are in themselves a splendid record of
which the Negroes, and their white friends may be justly
proud.

It may also be appropriate in this connection to recall that
throughout the period of hostilities the Negro was never sus-
pected of espionage or of sympathy with the enemy, and that
he has been wholly indifferent to those movements fostered
by radical aliens that aim at the destruction of the American
form of government. This good record of the whole race de-
serves such publicity as will offset the common tendency to
judge it by the shortcomings of some of its members. No
people is spurred to higher things when habitually referred to
in disparaging or contemptuous terms. Ordinary human be-
ings tend to live up to or down to the role assigned them by
their neighbors.

On several previous occasions the University Commission
for the Study of Race Problems has addressed appeals to the
college men of the South for more justice and fair play for
the twelve millions of our colored citizens. At this time we
would appeal especially for a large measure of thought fulness
and consideration, for the control of careless habits of speech
which give needless offense, and for the practice of just rela-
tions. To seek by all practical>le means to cultivate a more
tolerant spirit, a more generous sympathy, and a wider degree
of cooperation between the best elements of 1x)th races, to em-
phasize the best rather than the worst features of interracial
relations, to secure greater publicity for those whose views are
based on reason rather than prejudice — these, we believe, are
essential parts of the Reconstruction programme by which it
is hoped to bring into the world a new era of peace and de-
mocracy. Because college men are rightly expected to be
moulders of opinion, the Commission earnestly appeals to them



14 Southern R,\ce Questions

to contribute of their talents and energy- in bringing this pro-
gramme to its consummation.

(Signed) E. C. Branson, R. P. Brooks, J. J. Doster, J. M.
Farr. J. D. Hoskins, W. M. Hunley, W. L. Kennon, Josiah
Morse. W. O. Scroggs, W. S. Sutton, D. Y. Thomas.

April 26, ipip.



V

Interracial Cooperation

The University Race Commission in its last letter to the
college students of the South called attention to the fact that
college men are expected to assist in moulding public opinion
and to cooperate in all sane efforts to bring about a more
tolerant spirit, more generous sympathy, and larger measure
of good-will and understanding l^etween the best elements of
both races.

In this letter the Commission wishes to call attention to the
progress made in the last few years in interracial cooperation.
Already there are agencies at work developing such coopera-
tion in local communities throughout the Southern States.
Noteworthy in this connection is the establishment of more
than eight hundred county interracial committees in the South-
ern States, as a result of the efforts of the Commission on In-
terracial Cooperation, organized in 1919 by representative
Southern men and women, with its headquarters in Atlanta.
This is a practical method of putting into service the leader-
ship of both races. Sane, thoughtful men, who love truth
and justice, can meet together and discuss problems involving
points of even strong disagreement and arrive at a common
understanding, if only they remember to look for the next best
thing to do rather than attempt to determine for all time any
set of fixed policies or lay down an inclusive program for the
future. The most fruitful forms of cooperation have been
found in connection with such vital community problems as
better schools, good roads, more healthful living, and more
satisfactory business relations. In all these community eft'orts
the good of both races is inseparably involved.

No fact is more clearly established by history than that
hatred and force only complicate race relations. The alter-
native to this is counsel and cooperation among men of char-
acter and good-will, and, above all, of intelligent and compre-
hensive knowledge of the racial problem. The number of



16 Southern Race Questions

those who possess specific knowledge upon which to base in-
telHgent thinking and, iiUimately. wise action is still too small.
There is great need, therefore, that facts now available con-
cerning the advancement of the Negro race in education, in
professional accomplishment, in economic independence and in
character, be studied by thoughtful students in our colleges.
Such facts as are definitely established could well be made, as
has already been done in some institutions, the basis of in-
struction in race conditions and relations as a part of a regular
course in social science. This body of information would un-
doubtedly allay race antagonism and would serve as a founda-
tion for tolerant attitude and intelligent action in every direc-
tion of interracial cooperation.

(Signed) E. C. Branson, J. J. Doster, J. M. Farr, C. J.
Heatwole, J. D. Hoskins, W. AI. Hunley, W. L. Kennon,
Josiah Morse, W. O. Scroggs, \V. R. Smithey, W. S. Sutton.
D. Y. Thomas.

January 14, 1^22.



Introductory Address*

(Knoxville, Tenn., 1919.)

So tar as I know, the first time that representatives of both
races, wishing well, meaning well, and wanting good to our
country, ever met together for frank and honest talk was at
the Atlanta conference of the Southern Sociological Congress
six years ago, that is, in 1913. This was a very remarkable
meeting. Each year since that time the Congress has had such
a section as this. That it is good to have such a meeting I am
sure nobody who has ever attended one of them would doubt
for one moment. I am glad to welcome all of us here again
this year, because each year marks another step in the progress
of race relationship in our Southern States, and it is good that
each year we should have an opportunity of seeing "where w^e
are at."

I should like to make two statements. One of them is this :
Never in the history of the world has any race in the same
length of time made such progress in physical, intellectual, and
moral improvement as the colored race has done in the last
sixty years. Such a statement does not mean that there must
not still be a forward movement in all these lines. There are
still thousands who are uneducated, thousands who are very


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Online LibraryUniversity Commission on Southern Race QuestionsFive letters of the University Commission on Southern Race Questions → online text (page 1 of 2)